“Only when this oppressive system is destroyed will there be hope for genuine peace and security,” Abayomi Azikiwe said.
The following is the transcript of the interview:
Balkans Post: At least 19 people have been killed during widespread protests that broke out in the U.S. over the police killing of George Floyd. What’s your take on this?
Abayomi Azikiwe: The police execution of George Floyd which was captured on a video cellphone by Darnella Frazier, a 17-year-old African American woman, has sparked a national rebellion against racist police and vigilante violence directed towards African Americans. The murder of Floyd came in the aftermath of two other high-profile cases being the vigilante killing of Ahmaud Abrery in Brunswick, Georgia and the police raid in Louisville, Kentucky, where 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was killed. Taylor was sleeping in her bed when the police arrived without warning and broke into her place. It turned out that the police had the wrong address. These events had fueled the anger of many people across the United States. When the news spread about the Floyd murder, people in Minneapolis and St. Paul took the lead in showing the direction for the rest of the country. The response to the demonstrations and rebellions in various cities has been repression from the U.S. government. Over 10,000 people have been arrested since May 26. 20,000 National Guard soldiers are activated across 29 states while units of the FBI, Bureau of Federal Prisons and military forces from Fort Bragg and Fort Drum are deployed in Washington, D.C. and other areas. Yet people are still rallying and marching every day in various cities.
BP: In your opinion, what are the reasons behind the escalation of racial issues in America?
Abayomi Azikiwe: Since mid-March the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted U.S. society placing the healthcare system, education, food services and the overall economy in serious jeopardy. The U.S. has the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, approaching two million people sickened and 109,000 deaths. 41 million workers have been thrown out of their jobs and many are on the brink of financial ruin. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted African Americans in the urban and rural areas of the country. U.S. civilization was built through the forced removal and genocide carried out on the Indigenous Native Americans. Concurrently, millions of Africans were stolen from the continent and brought to the U.S. to work for free as slaves. We are now looking back on 155 years since slavery was legally abolished and African Americans are still waging a protracted struggle for self-determination, national liberation and full equality. The developments in the contemporary period are a continuation of a centuries-long quest for emancipation.
BP: U.S. President Donald Trump responded to the protests in an authoritarian manner, yet not authoritarian enough to satisfy his base. What does that tell us?
Abayomi Azikiwe: Trump ordered the teargassing of demonstrators outside the White House in order for him to walk across the street to St. John's Episcopal Church for the purpose of a photo opportunity holding a Bible. The hierarchy of the Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C denounced his actions. The president is attempting to deflect attention away from the economic depression and racial strife gripping the country to make it appear that under his direction the demonstrations and rebellions could be crushed. In carrying out this policy it is further damaging the already tarnished image of the U.S. internationally. People have held solidarity demonstrations throughout Europe, Africa, West Asia, Latin America and other geo-political regions in solidarity with the African American people and their struggle to end racism and national oppression.
BP: Also, Trump has recently described the protesters as “thugs” and said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” His remarks were widely criticized for inciting violence. What role has Trump personally played in inciting the protesters?
Abayomi Azikiwe: These remarks are designed to appeal to his right-wing and racist base among the ruling class, disgruntled middle-class elements and workers who mistakenly believe his economic policies are moving in the right direction. However, today with so much economic distress, Trump cannot use this premise to argue for re-election in November. He is making statements which are designed to appeal to the racism among whites. However, it is fueling tensions among African Americans, Latin Americans and other oppressed peoples. Some elements within his Republican Party are becoming concerned that his rhetoric, erratic behavior and authoritarian posture is alienating broader segments of the population making his re-election far less than certain since the beginning of the pandemic and the national unrest over the police killing of George Floyd.
BP: Where do you think such protests will eventually lead to? Is there hope for change?
Abayomi Azikiwe: It is too early at this stage of the upsurge to tell whether the demonstrations can be galvanized into a national organization and movement aimed at lasting change. What we have witnessed is the possible outlining of a revolutionary movement committed to transforming the racist capitalist system in the U.S. Nonetheless, it will take much more to build the organizational capacity needed to make fundamental changes. Systematic racism is a key component in exploitative apparatus of capitalism and imperialism. Only when this oppressive system is destroyed will there be hope for genuine peace and security.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. He serves as a political analyst for Press TV and RT worldwide satellite television news networks as well as other international media in the areas of African and world affairs.